DeMarcus Cousins versus the All-Star bid

Cousins-Media-Day

Five seasons ago I began a journey as a journalist at the same time that DeMarcus Cousins was beginning his career in the NBA.  He was a rookie coming into the league with baggage.  I was an inexperienced writer with a flip video camera and digital recorder.  Both of us were green and surprisingly, we’re still standing in Sacramento.

On my first week on the job I had a chance to sit down with Cousins for a one-on-one conversation – something that is rarely accomplished now.  He was quiet and reserved.  A giant 20-year-old kid with 20 pounds of baby fat and the weight of the world on his shoulders.  But his answers to my questions are so perfect more than four years later.

CK: Where do you see your career in 2 years?

DMC: Hopefully to be one of the best up and coming big men in the league. When they speak about top big men, I am mentioned and hopefully I’m an All-Star.

CK: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

DMC: The best big man in the league. An All-Star.

CK: What about in 12 years?

DMC: The best big man to play the game.

CK: Lastly, are you going to be a Hall of Famer?

DMC: That’s the plan.

“That’s the plan.”  It’s so simple, yet the road to get to where we are today was anything but.  Two years in, Cousins was indeed “one of the best up and coming big men in the league.”  He wasn’t an All-Star, but his talent was undeniable.

Today we find out if he met his five-year projections.  It’s debatable, but Cousins looks and feels like the best big man in the game.  He is certainly the most unstoppable big man in the game.  But is he an All-Star?

To date, no, DeMarcus Cousins has never made the All-Star team.  How can you be the best big man in the NBA, but not an All-Star?

It’s complicated, right?  Before this season, clear issues held Cousins back.  We don’t need to rehash all of his shortcomings as a young man.  But it’s safe to say that his game was years beyond his actual age.

But in year five, Cousins has grown.  There are still moments of weakness, but the gap between Cousins the player and Cousins the person have closed dramatically.

Coming out of a summer where Cousins not only made Team USA, but represented his country well at the World Cup in Spain, everything seemed like it was falling into place.  After a blistering start to the season, you could already imagine Cousins in New York.

But then it all went sideways.  Who gets viral meningitis?  When have you ever seen a player miss 10 games in a season due to illness?  Or how about a coach getting fired with an 11-13 record without his all-world center for nine of those games?

Call it karma.  Call it the basketball gods playing a cruel joke, but Cousins is a star.  He deserves to be included with the best players in the world, because he is their equal and in most cases, their superior.

Five years in, Cousins is dominant.  He has a ways to go if he hopes to become one of the best big men to ever play the game, but making an All-Star team is the major step towards being accepted for how talented he truly is.

This is a day of reckoning.  Can Cousins rise above his past?  Can he survive an illness and a coaching change and a debacle of a season that he had nothing to do with?  Or will he once again be left on the outside looking in.

Six weeks ago, you didn’t even have to ask the question.  It was a foregone conclusion that Cousins would represent the Western Conference at All-Star Weekend.  And now Cousins is clinging to hope that the powers that be will look past everything and stamp his ticket to elite status.

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About: James Ham

James Ham is the senior editor of Cowbell Kingdom, providing extensive Kings coverage through news analysis, in-depth interviews with players and staff and daily coverage of breaking news since 2010. Along with providing original content for the site, including the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast and his weekly Sunday Musings column, James also contributes to ESPN.com and is one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary film "Small Market, Big Heart".